CHICAGO – The lights were still glowing, and so were the smiles as broad as this city’s shoulders when David Yoder and Clayton Smith stood next to one another on a field that had become theirs, if only for a night.
Roommate connection, oh yeah, Yoder said, then grinned at Smith.
And what a connection it was.
With 11:58 still to be played, Yoder, the backup quarterback who came in to relieve starter Josh Miller, threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Smith on a fourth-and-2 to give Saint Francis exhale room in its 25-13 victory over No. 1-ranked and defending NAIA champion Saint Xavier.
It was the first time in the program’s 14-plus years that Saint Francis (4-1) has beaten a top-ranked team.
And the Cougars from Fort Wayne beat the Cougars of Chicago at their own homecoming.
The win also ended a four-game losing streak to Saint Xavier, which had ended Saint Francis’ 56-game home winning streak in 2009.
Clinging to a 19-13 lead – a lead that once was 19-0 on a Miller 9-yard run, a 5-yard score from Antoin Campbell and a 3-yard pass from Miller to Kevin Bush – Saint Francis was trying not to let this one slip away, unlike the 15-14 home loss to Saint Ambrose three Saturdays earlier.
Two successive runs by Campbell netted 1 yard, setting up the fourth-and-2.
It was a call from Pat Donley, said Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley, who passed the credit to his offensive coordinator and son.
I thought we’ve got 15 seconds on the play clock, I better get the play in, Yoder said.
And for the one play, in came Smith.
The thing was, it was a boot, so it’s a play action, Smith said. Usually I’m in on run plays, so they definitely didn’t think I was going to be catching the ball.
When I came out (in the pass pattern), I hit the linebacker, but I kept on with my drag. Because of that, because I’m usually a run-blocking tight end, I was wide open, and Yoder threw me a good ball.
That was the first touchdown I ever scored in my life!
But Saint Xavier, which had scored a touchdown with 51 seconds left in the first half then got as close as 19-13 on two field goals within two minutes, was far from through, even though it was at a disadvantage.
Its starting quarterback, Jimmy Coy, who had thrown for 12 touchdowns this season, was out with concussion symptoms suffered in last week’s game. In his place was backup Joe Gill, who led Saint Xavier to its win over Trinity International.
You say, What about their No. 1 quarterback being out, would that make any difference?’ Donley asked, then answered his own question. We had three of our four starting secondary out.
Gill led Saint Xavier to midfield when Saint Francis cornerback Kory Stamps not only caused a fumble, but recovered it with 5:26 left in the game.
Had to do it for my team, Stamps said. I put my head on the ball, drove my feet, and the ball came out. I was at the bottom of the pile, luckily for the recovery.